Discussion Five Myths

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matthew mckeon

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In the latest issue of Civil War Monitor, five well known Civil War historians offered what they thought were the five more persistent myths about the Civil War.

1. The Emancipation Proclamation was not a significant and game changing measure.

2. Grant had a "free hand" after he took command of the Union armies in 1864.

3. The South couldn't have won the war.

4. The Civil War was the first "modern" war.

5. The stories of reconciliation around Appomattox, like Chamberlain's men "saluting" the surrendering Confederates.
 

Cavalry Charger

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5. The stories of reconciliation around Appomattox, like Chamberlain's men "saluting" the surrendering Confederates.
I'm wondering if there is anything to 'disprove' this myth?

We do know that there was incredible camarederie shared amongst the men from both sides at times even while the war was ongoing. I'd imagine relief when the war finally came to an end, as well as sorrow for many. Acknowledgement of a defeated enemy is not out of the question in my mind. And, it appears Grant always acted magnanimously at the moment of surrender.

I, for one, would be interested to know what they have to say about this.
 
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Dead Parrott

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1. The Emancipation Proclamation was not a significant and game changing measure.

Any decent level of research will tell you otherwise!

2. Grant had a "free hand" after he took command of the Union armies in 1864.

LOL - To my knowledge, no general who wasn't also a king ever had a 'free hand' in any campaign.

3. The South couldn't have won the war.

Odds were against them, but yes they could have (opinion). I think the South had better odds of winning in the SCOTUS without resorting to war - but that's probably its own thread...

4. The Civil War was the first "modern" war.

Too vague a definition - there were certainly modern lessons to be learned, but that's true in many wars.

5. The stories of reconciliation around Appomattox, like Chamberlain's men "saluting" the surrendering Confederates.


Curious on this one - which ones have been refuted\confirmed?

- K.
 
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O' Be Joyful

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I'm wondering if there is anything to 'disprove' this myth?

We do know that there was incredible camarederie shared amongst the men from both sides even while the war was ongoing. I'd imagine relief when the war finally came to an end, as well as sorrow for many. Acknowledgement of a defeated enemy is not out of the question in my mind. And, it appears Grant always acted magnanimously at the moment of surrender.

I, for one, would be interested to know what they have to say about this.
Without viewing the article C.C. I believe most of this, i.e. Chamberlain, has to do with Lost Cause insinuations of
"We are brothers again." when in actuality that was far from the case in reality.

But, until I see excerpts....
 

Kurt G

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On number 5 , Gordon reported this and he was known for playing loose with the facts to help reconciliation . The Barlow story , for instance . Chamberlain did not mention the salute until well after the war , so there is some controversy on what really happened . I'd recommend Elizabeth Varon's book "Appomattox" to bring a pretty convincing look at what the reconciliation was really like . There was still considerable animosity between some of the former Union and Confederate soldiers at the early Gettysburg reunions .
 

matthew mckeon

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The 25,000 rations that Grant issued to the hungry Confederates were probably from the Confederate supply wagons that the Union had captured: in fact since the Union troops had outrun their own supply trains, they probably ate from them as well.

The "carry arms" order that Chamberlain ordered wasn't a salute. It was similar to coming to attention and required silence, preventing Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers from exchanging insults.
 
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archieclement

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The 25,000 rations that Grant issued to the hungry Confederates were probably from the Confederate supply wagons that the Union had captured: in fact since the Union troops had outrun their own supply trains, they probably ate from them as well.

The "carry arms" order that Chamberlain ordered wasn't a salute. It was similar to coming to attention and required silence, preventing Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers from exchanging insults.
"Having thus formed, the brigades standing at 'order arms,' the head of the Confederate column, General Gordon in command, and the old 'Stonewall' Jackson Brigade leading, started down into the valley which lay between us, and approached our lines. With my staff I was on the extreme right of the line, mounted on horseback, and in a position nearest the Rebel solders who were approaching our right.
"Ah, but it was a most impressive sight, a most striking picture, to see that whole army in motion to lay down the symbols of war and strife, that army which had fought for four terrible years after a fashion but infrequently known in war.
"At such a time and under such conditions I thought it eminently fitting to show some token of our feeling, and I therefore instructed my subordinate officers to come to the position of 'salute' in the manual of arms as each body of the Confederates passed before us.
"It was not a 'present arms,' however, not a 'present,' which then as now was the highest possible honor to be paid even to a president. It was the 'carry arms,' as it was then known, with musket held by the right hand and perpendicular to the shoulder. I may best describe it as a marching salute in review.
"When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to 'attention,' preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon's columns should pass before our front, each in turn.
"The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse's head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation.
"By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell.
"At a distance of possibly twelve feet from our line, the Confederates halted and turned face towards us. Their lines were formed with the greatest care, with every officer in his appointed position, and thereupon began the formality of surrender.
"Bayonets were affixed to muskets, arms stacked, and cartridge boxes unslung and hung upon the stacks. Then, slowly and with a reluctance that was appealingly pathetic, the torn and tattered battleflags were either leaned against the stacks or laid upon the ground. The emotion of the conquered soldiery was really sad to witness. Some of the men who had carried and followed those ragged standards through the four long years of strife, rushed, regardless of all discipline, from the ranks, bent about their old flags, and pressed them to their lips with burning tears.
"And it can well be imagined, too, that there was no lack of emotion on our side, but the Union men were held steady in their lines, without the least show of demonstration by word or by motion. There was, though, a twitching of the muscles of their faces, and, be it said, their battle-bronzed cheeks were not altogether dry. Our men felt the import of the occasion, and realized fully how they would have been affected if defeat and surrender had been their lot after such a fearful struggle
 

archieclement

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Chamberlains own account seems to indicate it was indeed a salute, and nothing about possible insults or hatred. Instead he notes some Union soldiers were crying at the sight of the defeated army passing with "There was, though, a twitching of the muscles of their faces, and, be it said, their battle-bronzed cheeks were not altogether dry."

From an account he gave the Boston Journal in 1901
 
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SouthernFriedOtaku

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On number 5 , Gordon reported this and he was known for playing loose with the facts to help reconciliation . The Barlow story , for instance . Chamberlain did not mention the salute until well after the war , so there is some controversy on what really happened . I'd recommend Elizabeth Varon's book "Appomattox" to bring a pretty convincing look at what the reconciliation was really like . There was still considerable animosity between some of the former Union and Confederate soldiers at the early Gettysburg reunions .
I remember reading somewhere that when US Grant's grandson spoke at the 1932 gathering of the United Confederate Veterans at Richmond, VA in 1932, there were a few of the old veterans who refused to shake his hand, although the vast majority of the old men appreciated the kinds words spoken by Grant.
 
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SouthernFriedOtaku

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"Having thus formed, the brigades standing at 'order arms,' the head of the Confederate column, General Gordon in command, and the old 'Stonewall' Jackson Brigade leading, started down into the valley which lay between us, and approached our lines. With my staff I was on the extreme right of the line, mounted on horseback, and in a position nearest the Rebel solders who were approaching our right.
"Ah, but it was a most impressive sight, a most striking picture, to see that whole army in motion to lay down the symbols of war and strife, that army which had fought for four terrible years after a fashion but infrequently known in war.
"At such a time and under such conditions I thought it eminently fitting to show some token of our feeling, and I therefore instructed my subordinate officers to come to the position of 'salute' in the manual of arms as each body of the Confederates passed before us.
"It was not a 'present arms,' however, not a 'present,' which then as now was the highest possible honor to be paid even to a president. It was the 'carry arms,' as it was then known, with musket held by the right hand and perpendicular to the shoulder. I may best describe it as a marching salute in review.
"When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to 'attention,' preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon's columns should pass before our front, each in turn.
"The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse's head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation.
"By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell.
"At a distance of possibly twelve feet from our line, the Confederates halted and turned face towards us. Their lines were formed with the greatest care, with every officer in his appointed position, and thereupon began the formality of surrender.
"Bayonets were affixed to muskets, arms stacked, and cartridge boxes unslung and hung upon the stacks. Then, slowly and with a reluctance that was appealingly pathetic, the torn and tattered battleflags were either leaned against the stacks or laid upon the ground. The emotion of the conquered soldiery was really sad to witness. Some of the men who had carried and followed those ragged standards through the four long years of strife, rushed, regardless of all discipline, from the ranks, bent about their old flags, and pressed them to their lips with burning tears.
"And it can well be imagined, too, that there was no lack of emotion on our side, but the Union men were held steady in their lines, without the least show of demonstration by word or by motion. There was, though, a twitching of the muscles of their faces, and, be it said, their battle-bronzed cheeks were not altogether dry. Our men felt the import of the occasion, and realized fully how they would have been affected if defeat and surrender had been their lot after such a fearful struggle
Not exactly the World Turned Upside Down like at Yorktown then.
 

Kurt G

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Chamberlains own account seems to indicate it was indeed a salute, and nothing about possible insults or hatred. Instead he notes some Union soldiers were crying at the sight of the defeated army passing with "There was, though, a twitching of the muscles of their faces, and, be it said, their battle-bronzed cheeks were not altogether dry."

From an account he gave the Boston Journal in 1901
In one of my books there is a study of Chamberlain's various accounts of the surrender . It may take some digging to find the book , but as I recall he didn't mention any salute in the first 3 accounts of the surrender ceremony . These were in various letters he wrote . It wasn't until much later that he mentioned the salute . I wonder if he was following Gordon's lead . Chamberlain was also known to embellish things on occasion. It seems nearly all Civil War officers were guilty of that .
 
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archieclement

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In one of my books there is a study of Chamberlain's various accounts of the surrender . It may take some digging to find the book , but as I recall he didn't mention any salute in the first 3 accounts of the surrender ceremony . These were in various letters he wrote . It wasn't until much later that he mentioned the salute . I wonder if he was following Gordon's lead . Chamberlain was also known to embellish things on occasion. It seems nearly all Civil War officers were guilty of that .
Well theres always the possibility that J L Chamberlain was just a low down lying Yankee if one wishes to discount his account:bounce:

However the only way one can possibly know what was in his mind or his intention of doing so, is Chamberlain himself, why his account should matter IMO
 
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SouthernFriedOtaku

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Which is probably also a myth.
Well in regards to Yorktown, the part that is a myth is that Cornwallis didn't show because he was ashamed. I sure that he felt some shame in losing to Washington, even though the failure wasn't his fault. The real reason Cornwallis wasn't there was due to illness and unable to mount his horse. He and Washington would meet later on before Cornwallis and his paroled officers were allowed to return to Britain. The rest of the account about Genreral O'Hara offering the sword to Rochambeau and the old man pointing to Washington and saying the commander was there and Washington having General Ben Lincoln take the sword instead are taken from several eyewitness accounts.
 

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Well in regards to Yorktown, the part that is a myth is that Cornwallis didn't show because he was ashamed. I sure that he felt some shame in losing to Washington, even though the failure wasn't his fault. The real reason Cornwallis wasn't there was due to illness and unable to mount his horse. He and Washington would meet later on before Cornwallis and his paroled officers were allowed to return to Britain. The rest of the account about Genreral O'Hara offering the sword to Rochambeau and the old man pointing to Washington and saying the commander was there and Washington having General Ben Lincoln take the sword instead are taken from several eyewitness accounts.
No, the myth is The World Turned Upside Down being played. There is no period account of it being played and no mention of it being played until decades afterward. It's actually searchable on Google at a number of sites that discuss the legend of the song being played at the surrender.

 
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matthew mckeon

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"Having thus formed, the brigades standing at 'order arms,' the head of the Confederate column, General Gordon in command, and the old 'Stonewall' Jackson Brigade leading, started down into the valley which lay between us, and approached our lines. With my staff I was on the extreme right of the line, mounted on horseback, and in a position nearest the Rebel solders who were approaching our right.
"Ah, but it was a most impressive sight, a most striking picture, to see that whole army in motion to lay down the symbols of war and strife, that army which had fought for four terrible years after a fashion but infrequently known in war.
"At such a time and under such conditions I thought it eminently fitting to show some token of our feeling, and I therefore instructed my subordinate officers to come to the position of 'salute' in the manual of arms as each body of the Confederates passed before us.
"It was not a 'present arms,' however, not a 'present,' which then as now was the highest possible honor to be paid even to a president. It was the 'carry arms,' as it was then known, with musket held by the right hand and perpendicular to the shoulder. I may best describe it as a marching salute in review.
"When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to 'attention,' preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon's columns should pass before our front, each in turn.
"The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse's head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation.
"By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell.
"At a distance of possibly twelve feet from our line, the Confederates halted and turned face towards us. Their lines were formed with the greatest care, with every officer in his appointed position, and thereupon began the formality of surrender.
"Bayonets were affixed to muskets, arms stacked, and cartridge boxes unslung and hung upon the stacks. Then, slowly and with a reluctance that was appealingly pathetic, the torn and tattered battleflags were either leaned against the stacks or laid upon the ground. The emotion of the conquered soldiery was really sad to witness. Some of the men who had carried and followed those ragged standards through the four long years of strife, rushed, regardless of all discipline, from the ranks, bent about their old flags, and pressed them to their lips with burning tears.
"And it can well be imagined, too, that there was no lack of emotion on our side, but the Union men were held steady in their lines, without the least show of demonstration by word or by motion. There was, though, a twitching of the muscles of their faces, and, be it said, their battle-bronzed cheeks were not altogether dry. Our men felt the import of the occasion, and realized fully how they would have been affected if defeat and surrender had been their lot after such a fearful struggle
Chamberlain composed this a good 36 years after the event. Contemporary accounts don't support it.
 

archieclement

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Chamberlain composed this a good 36 years after the event. Contemporary accounts don't support it.
???? what contemporary account says he gave the order to prevent insults? I'm not aware of any

The only account that I know of that gives Chamberlains reasoning for the order/salute, is his own, and he clearly states it was to offer a salute...…..nothing else

Again if we are going to discount primary personal accounts.......theres little "fact" to base anything on in relation to the ACW

But I suppose you can argue by 1901 he was able to give a more complete recollection of his experiences.....or are we to disregard US Grants memoirs concerning the war, due to it being written years after the war as well ? It would have either suffered or benefitted from the passage of time as well.
 
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